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Marijuana is Decriminalized in Costa Rica, Sort Of [Updated 2020]

Is weed legal in Costa Rica?

In 2018, the Costa Rican Supreme Court decriminalized possession and cultivation personal quantities of marijuana. Selling marijuana, as well as large-scale possession and/or cultivation remain crimes punishable by imprisonment. Legalized medical marijuana is pending in the Costa Rican legislature.

[Update on October 9, 2020]

Costa Rica’s official trade promotion agency, PROCOMER, published a study which demonstrates the value of hemp production as a potential agricultural export. While this study doesn’t directly address marijuana legalization, it does represent forward momentum in normalizing the cannabis plant.

[Update January 2, 2020]

There is a bill waiting to be heard by the Costa Rican National Assembly that would legalize production of hemp and cannabis for domestic medical use. [source in Spanish]

Additionally, there is an effort to legalize production for export. Proponents cite a 2017 Deloitte Canada report indicating that approximately 350 million people live in jurisdictions where cannabis legal and may be imported.

One lawmaker, Zoila Rosa Volio Pacheco stated that, “[legal marijuana production for export] would generate work for skilled and unskilled labor,” for the country that is suffering from an economic downturn.

[Update on September 2, 2019]

Costa Rica ranks #6 in Latin America for percentage of the population that identify as a frequent marijuana user.

[Update on May 2, 2019]

Guillermo Araya, the director of the Costa Rican Drug institute (known as ICD for its initials in Spanish) reminded those in Costa Rica that, while simple possession is not punishable, other activities are.

Specifically, Article 58, Law 8204 calls for between 8 and 15 years in jail for anyone that distributes, trades, supplies, manufactures, elaborates, refines, transforms, extracts, prepares, cultivates, produces, transports, stores or sells marijuana. Presumably, he means large-scale cultivation and manufacturing, as the Supreme Court ruling essentially decriminalized personal possession and cultivation.

Mario Alberto Cerdas: Costa Rican Cannabis Pioneer

Pot is technically contraband in Costa Rica, however, thanks to a courageous Costa Rican attorney named Mario Alberto Cerdas, possessing and cultivating cannabis in amounts small enough for only personal consumption is no longer a crime.

Cerdas was charged with cultivating marijuana for growing pot plants on the outdoor terrace of his home, which faced the building that houses Costa Rica’s federal law enforcement agency, the OIJ. He was charged, arrested, and spent five months in preventative detention without bail.

His case made it all the way to the third chamber of the Costa Rican Supreme Court. In January of 2016, the Court absolved Cerdas of the charge of marijuana cultivation. Then, after two years of study, the Court issued a resolution that decreed that growing cannabis for a purpose other than selling it or distributing it, is not a threat to public health. Therefore, it is not a punishable crime.

Medical Marijuana in Costa Rica

There are multiple efforts in the National Assembly, Costa Rica’s legislative body, to establish a medical marijuana program.

One effort would limit eligibility to those suffering from serious conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, MS, and HIV. Eligible conditions could be added based on future scientific studies validated by the Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis and Hemp (IICBA).

Under this proposed law, medical cannabis would fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health. Cannabis would be prescribed by a doctor and distributed via pharmacies.

Costa Rica Alchemy is the country’s first medicinal cannabis association.

Is Pot Legal in Costa Rica for Foreigners?

Recreational marijuana is illegal for residents and visitors. However, there is no punishment for possession of a “small dose,” which is usually defined as about one-quarter of an ounce.

Like many of Central America’s tourist hotspots, pot is abundant. In a 2015 University of Costa Rica study, almost 20% of Costa Ricans reported that hey had tried marijuana. The same study reported that 78.1% say that marijuana is very easy to acquire.

The Hookup

We don’t recommend or endorse buying, selling, using, or possessing marijuana in Costa Rica. You could get arrested and end up in a Tico prison for breaking marijuana laws. Don’t do it.

There are five places that a visitor can most easily score weed, and as such, we recommend avoiding these kinds of places in order to not break the law:

Weed on the Beach

Weed is especially easy to find in the more popular beach areas.

In the Caribbean beach towns like Puerto Viejo and Cahuita, a person can literally follow the smell of pot.

The eastern coast of Costa Rica has an Afro-Caribbean vibe. In fact, Cauhita has been called Costa Rica’s Little Jamaica . Rastafarian influence on the town is obvious.

If you can’t find weed in Puerto Viejo or Cauhita then you are stupid.

Speaking of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita, one of our Costa Rica insiders, Marie Gomez, wrote a guide to these towns, outlining great places to eat, drink and enjoy fun activities.

On the Pacific side, surfers and vendors on the beach can usually give you some advice on where to go to score weed.

Weed in the Park

Not all of Costa Rica is the beach. If you find yourself landlocked, a local park is usually where nefarious pot dealers hang out. We don’t ever recommend going to a park late at night. They can be dangerous in the wee hours.

Most towns and communities are built around a church and an adjacent park. There is usually at least one person in the park that is selling.

Weed in Clubs and Bars

Dance clubs and bars are often frequented by marijuana users and people that sell it.

In beach towns, the Rastafarian-themed bars are often full of marijuana activity.

Weed in a Taxi

In the Central Valley, taxi drivers sometimes can steer you toward places that where there is (not) marijuana.

Always look for the official red taxis with yellow triangles displaying their license number.

AirBnB Weed

Phrases like “ 420 friendly ” on AirBnB indicate that the host is marijuana-friendly.

Should I Bring it With Me

Under no circumstance.

If you are caught, the best case scenario is that you are denied entry to the country and sent home. That is what happened to a professional American football player from the United States.

The worst case scenario is that you spend years in a Costa Rican prison. Have a beer instead.

Chifrijo is a delicious Costa Rican food made with beans, rice, fried pork, and often topped with avocado. Most people eat it with corn chips.

Chifrijo, a popular bar food made of pork belly, beans, rice, salsa and/or chimichurri, is a local go-to to treat the munchies.

Chifrijo Jones is the nom de plume of author, adventurer, and businessman, J. Fisher.

Recent Content

If you’ve been paying close attention to the news in Costa Rica, you might notice stories about unrest, roadblocks, and protests in the streets. In related news, you might also read that the.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in restrictions for travelers from the United States. Learn more about who can travel to Costa Rica and what you can do when you are there.

About Me

I’m Chifrijo Jones. More than ten years ago I went to Costa Rica for the first time for a Spanish-language immersion. I loved it so much that I just kept going back.

My Costa Rican friends and I like to explore the country, from beaches to volcanoes; and cities to backroads. We go to soccer games and city festivals. And, we write about what we see and do. We take pictures and make videos, too.

I hope that what you find here will help you with travel, tourism, relocation, and retirement to Costa Rica.

Is weed legal in Costa Rica? In 2018, the Costa Rican Supreme Court decriminalized possession and cultivation personal quantities of marijuana. Selling marijuana, as well…

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Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s New Law Contemplates the Role of Hemp in Modernizing Agriculture

Costa Rica has legalized the cultivation and processing of Hemp under a recently signed law that attributes supervision to the agriculture and health agencies. The new law also establishes a legal framework for marijuana in medicinal and therapeutic purposes.

Released in mid-September, the legislation puts the agriculture, production, industrialization and marketing of Cannabis under the responsibility of the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, while allowing for research and academic study that will be overseen by the Ministry of Health.

Countries Around the World Make Moves to Decriminalize Cannabis

In late 2019, a ruling by Italy’s highest court struck down the prohibition against growing marijuana at home, ending a long legal dispute over that issue.

The court ruled that “at home, small-scale cultivation activities are to be considered excluded from the application of the penal code,” according to the New York Times.

The polemic of cultivation and consumption of cannabis in Costa Rica

From The Costa Rica News (TCRN) we have emphasized all relevant information that has come to light regarding the issue of “Cannabis in Costa Rica” since it continues to be a conflictive debate in this Central American country.

Let´s recall that in August 2018, the Costa Rican Supreme Court determined that a person is allowed to grow cannabis in their home for personal consumption and not trafficking and the State will not consider it as a danger to public health.

With the introduction of new oil-only cannabis Bill, could Costa Rica finally be on its way to legalization?

Progress has most certainly been made with regard to cannabis regulation in Costa Rica — however, to say the pace of change has been slow is something of an understatement.

Report: Legal Approaches to Decriminalize Cannabis in 16 Different Countries

This report, prepared by the foreign law specialists and analysts of the Law Library of Congress, provides a review of laws adopted in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, and Uruguay with regard to decriminalization of narcotics, and touches specifically on cannabis and legalization.

People in Latin America Are Starting to Turn Against Outlawing Marijuana

Attitudes in Latin America are shifting away from supporting prohibitionist policies, but they are far from consensus and the policy implications are unclear.

Sentiments in Latin America in favor of outlawing marijuana appear to be undergoing shifts in some countries, according to researchers in Chile and the UK.

A study published the International Journal of Drug Policy found that, in some parts of the region, more than 40% of respondents supported legalizing the drug, while in other, more conservative areas, support remained minimal.

Bill Introduced to Legalize Medical Marijuana and Hemp in Costa Rica

All around the world, different countries are considering the question of whether to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, as well as the growing of hemp for industrial uses. There have been any number of reports and studies to gain support for this movement showing that medical cannabis provides relief from a vast array of illness. Hemp is a product with an astonishing number of uses, as well as actually contributing to the safeguard of rain forests and replenishing of the soil.

Costa Rica Sees Growth in Hydroponic Marijuana Production

Costa Rica has seen an increase in cannabis growing operations that use more sophisticated cultivation methods, a possible result of increased demand fueled by foreign visitors looking for higher-quality marijuana.

According to a report by La Nación, in the last 13 years Costa Rican authorities have dismantled 41 laboratories where marijuana was being cultivated with hydroponics.

The Future of Medical Marijuana in Latin America

It’s a beautiful place for marijuana.

Costa Rica has an established history as a haven for liberal ideas, happy people, and gorgeous scenery. The country is one of the most environmentally friendly places in the world with 25% of the nation’s acreage protected from industrial development of any kind. It also disbanded its armed forced is the 1940’s, has fabulous healthcare, and a great education system.

Costa Rica Will Host Major Medical Marijuana Conference

The Council for the International Promotion of Costa Rica Medicine will host the Latin America Medical Cannabis Conference in Costa Rican on July 27-29th as part of ExpoMed series.

PROMED is a private not-for-profit organization, which coordinates the quality control and international promotion efforts of the medical tourism industry. Its goal is to ensure the quality of services provided by the private health industry in Costa Rica as the country becomes a major center for global medicine and medical tourism.

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